I-5 Freeway Through North Portland, 1964

A newly-opened I-5 freeway cuts a wide swath through North Portland in this 1964 photo looking northwest. NE Weidler and Broadway go east-west, while N Williams, Vancouver and Flint cross north-south over the freeway.

(City of Portland Archives)

36 thoughts on “I-5 Freeway Through North Portland, 1964

  1. I remember when this was built. I was 14 when the photo was taken and just beginning my exploration of the city. This stretch of I-5 was referred to as the Minnesota Freeway when it was being built. I thought it meant the road went all the way to Minnesota not realizing there was a street with that name. Look at the traffic!

  2. I was pretty young when the highway opened and we thought it was a great improvement over driving on Interstate over to the Steel bridge down harbor drive to capital highway.

    The only thing I missed as a kid, was not driving past Paul Bunion any more.

  3. It’s worth remembering the building of the freeway forced the removal of many families (many African-American) and split neighborhoods apart. Progress has many upsides, but also often some pretty big downsides.

  4. Chuck…I too, was 14, and remember it as being called The Minnesota Freeway! We called it that for years! Even to this day I slip occasionally and say “The Minnesota Freeway” and people just look at me and assume that I’m not a native. Of course, that also conjures up The Banfield (80-N or The Dalles Freeway and now simply 84) and The Baldoch Expressway (I-5 South) freeway names too!

    Terrific aerial view…a keeper. Thanks!


  5. Jim K., It’s not called the Banfield anymore? Ha! I live in SF now so don’t know the latest names. I remember the name Baldoch, too. Since we lived in Irvington and my folks didn’t own a car I didn’t really get south of downtown too often. If you’ve been living in Portland all of these years you’re definitley a native with a long memory.

  6. Chuck…

    For the most part, people now-a-days just refer to it as 84 or I-84…especially local TV newscasters and then only mention whether it’s Eastbound or Westbound, depending on the story i.e., “There was an accident today on I-84-Eastbound near Troutdale…”

    I must admit, I kinda miss it tho, not that I’m against progress or technology or that kinda thing, it’s just that one does get used to a certain amount of stuff after so many years and sometimes, those simple little habits are a just little tough to break after a while!

    A few other examples: We used to call it the Bertha-Beaverton Highway…now it’s the Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway…Union Ave. is now Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., or simply MLK…coming into the city from SW Barbur Blvd., it used to empty on to Front Ave. and now it’s called Naito Parkway. And before anyone points it out, yes, I know, it’s been over a number of years that these changes have taken place, but as I said, some things just take a little longer to get used to. I mentioned Vanport the other day and that got me into a little trouble! Of course, there are the normal changes, schools change, buildings get bought and their name changes, depending on who bought them, but it’ll always be Multnomah Stadium to me, not PGE Park! I think it also might have something to do with learning how to drive or take the bus at any particular age. We remember landmarks and locations in the process of making sure we know where we’re going, how to get there and how to get back!

    I can even remember when going to Beaverton, one had to go thru Glencullen to get there. I haven’t heard that directive in years! (By the way, I grew up in the Burlingame/Capitol Hill district.)

    Sorry…got a little long winded there…I’ll shut up now!


  7. And let’s not forget long playing records, the new Hi-Fi, the luxury of a grocery boy, the elevator operator or the obnoxious vacuum cleaner salesman!

    Oh, the list goes on and on and on…


  8. …sonic booms, air raid sirens every monday at noon, military blimps, duck & cover, Rusty Nails & Mr. Moon…

  9. Okay, and as long as we’re playing with trivia and such, here’s a little bit of fun from Portland’s past:
    (The clue is in the way the word is printed.)


    Does anyone remember?

    Oh, and how do YOU pronounce the word “Glisan”, as in Northwest or Northeast Glisan Street? Rhyme it with something and we’ll see if we can agree!


  10. Dr. Rodney Glisan (last name pronounced /ˈɡlɪsən/, rhymes with “listen”; January 29, 1827–1890) was a U.S. medical doctor who served on the frontier in the United States Army and was well known as a medical authority in the 19th century.

    Okay, here’s the story I was always told by both my father and my grandfather:

    Way back when, when there were streetcars in Portland, most of the streetcar conductors were German…don’t know why, it just was. When they would call out the name of the streets, their accent and pronunciation of the word/street “Glisan” came out sounding like “Gleason”, so, in order to make sure the streetcar would stop, people started pronouncing it “Gleason”, when asked what their stop was, just to make sure the conductor would understand them and stop the streetcar! When riders said “Glisan”, the conductors didn’t always stop the streetcars because they didn’t understand. (And when they did holler out “Gleasan”, if one wasn’t paying attention, they would miss their stop!) After a while, everyone, well, most everyone, just started pronouncing it “Gleason” out of habit, frustration and, of course, to make sure they got their stop! The following generations have just heard it as “Gleason” and didn’t/don’t know any different.

    So, every time I heard the word growing up, I was constantly reminded by my dad and his immediate side of the family, (parents, both brothers and sister, all native to Portland) -“It’s ‘Glisan’-sounds like ‘listen’…always remember that!”

    …and I always have!

    Yeah, we can agree or disagree with several other words/names in the Portland/Pacific Northwest area, but, as I said, that’s just the way I remember it. Remember what a problem we’ve always had with the pronunciation of the name of our state? I remember all the campaigns…ORY-GUN! How about: “It’s the Willamette, dammit!” (People would say ‘Will-a-men-tee!) Couch Street was always on that list too. (Sounds like who, not how!) I worked in the hotel/hospitality business for years and can remember someone coming up to the front desk to ask: “How far is it to Thee-da-lees?” No one knew, until we finally figured it out. We had to ask them to write it down…they were asking how far it was to The Dalles! I’ve laughed at that one for over thirty years now!

    And how did you get to Thee-da-lees? I-80N! Of course, I never quite got that one growing up…if “N” equaled North and the freeway went East, why didn’t they call it I-80E?


  11. Re: Glencullen- I’ve never heard that name, but Google knows it. We always referred to that area as “by Dragon Herbarium”. 🙂 Until you mentioned it, I never really noticed that that bit of B-H hwy does resemble a former “town”. I wonder if there was an “other side of the highway” that was obliterated by a widening project at some point?

    Re: Exchange names – as a former telephone, er… “hobbyist”, I learned that many of those names (Cherry, Capitol, Belmont, etc) are still used to this day for the telephone exchange buildings.

    Re: the Banfield – last time I checked that was still in use by traffic reporters and such, but it’s been a while since I paid attention to that. 🙂 Several years ago, listening to an old radio aircheck from KISN I heard reference to the Minnesota and Salem freeways, and it took me a while to figure out what they were talking about.

    @Jim K, re: Glissan/Gleesan – interesting story. Just curious, do/did you or your parents/grandparents personally recall it being “Glissen”, or is this just “the story”? Thanks!

  12. Tad…

    My dad grew up (back in the 20’s and 30’s) in the Alameda district, just off Knott, between 28th and 30th between Knott and Stanton…did the whole Grant High and Holy Rosary thing, so I always figured it was fact about the pronunciation of the street “Glisan”, especially since Glisan St. also ran its way thru a portion of the NE part of town, not just the NW. Everybody on my dad’s side of the family, aunts, uncles and even their old friends always pronounced it as “Glisan”. But, I must admit, I think it also might have had something to do with the way my dad always got so upset whenever he heard someone say “Gleason”! He really lost it, I mean, HE REALLY LOST IT…so, as I said, that might have had something to do with it. Years later, I looked it up. Since it also mentioned the pronunciation of Dr. Glisan’s name in its autobiography and seeing that it also stated that Portland honored him by naming a street after him, I also took that as fact. I’m not gonna argue with anyone about this…if I’m wrong, that’s okay, no big deal, I won’t lose any sleep over it, but you gotta admit, it DOES make a great story, even if it IS wrong! As I mentioned in an earlier, long winded response, I was in the hotel/hospitality business for over thirty some-odd years, and I can remember running into other older natives of the city pronouncing it as “Glisan”, so, putting everything together, I just figured it really WAS true.

    And, regarding the phone prefixes, ours was Cherry and I can remember when it was just CHerry 2921, six digits…and we had to call the operator to make a long distance call!

    Re: Dragon Herbarium…hmmm…I’ve NEVER heard that before. I’ll have to ask around…problem is, there’s not too many still around I can still ask! I know…I’ll simply look it up and see if anything sounds familiar!


  13. To Vintage Portland:

    Boy, when they said one picture is worth a thousand words, they wern’t kidding! Thanks for providing us all with such a great trip down memory lane!


  14. Glencullen was really nothing more than a Southern Pacific-West Side Line station/stop named after some early settler, Capt. John Winchell Cullen (1838–1939). The station operated for a couple of years back in the early 20’s…

    …and Dragon Herbarium is just the name of a business.


  15. Jim, I didn’t mean to contest the Glisan/Listen story, as I understand it that was the original pronunciation. I’m just curious about how far back the change occurred.

    And yes, Dragon is just a prominent sign along the road through there. 🙂

    The SP station name makes sense – wasn’t B-H hwy built along that RR line?

  16. Dan: “Does anyone remember when I-84 was designated I-80N?”

    Yep, I definitely remember the change over to I-84 in about 1980 when I was 10. I can still see the old I-80N signs and reacall being told that they were planning to re-number it.

    As to the freeway names, I think Banfield is still used, though probably less-commonly than when I was a kid. I remember learning only later about the Baldock and Minnesota names and never heard those in common use even as a kid. I think the reason the Banfield stuck while those didn’t is that the Banfield was the first real freeway in Portland and build before the Interstate system as the Banfield Expressway. I’m curious if anyone here is old enough to remember when the Banfield first opened?

    Interestingly (to me at least) the I-80N designation was to have been moved to the new Mt. Hood Freeway, had it been completed as planned, with the Banfield being removed from the Interstate system and signed only as US-30.

  17. I don’t know why the Banfield was originally called I-80N when the Interstate freeway system was built but I remember the designation and it must’ve referred to I-80 in the Bay Area which runs roughly parallel with it. Maybe it joined up with I-80 farther east, thus the designation.
    Interesting history re: the pronunciation of Glisan, Jim. I’ve only known it as being pronounced Gleason.
    Brian, I don’t think it was ever referred to as the Minnesota freeway once it opened. I think it was always referred to as “I-5 north to Vancouver”.
    And speaking of phones in the 50’s, remember party lines? I can’t imagine anyone today having the patience to deal with a party line.

  18. Chuck, I-84 branches off I-80 near Salt Lake City. Originally the directional suffix was used to show that it was, in effect, a northern branch of the main I-80 trans-continental route. In the 70’s the policy on naming Interstates was changed to discourage the use of these suffixes and, over time, most were renamed.

  19. Jim K;

    Thanks for sharing the story about your father and street names. It makes you wonder what other streets we’ve been mispronouncing. Perhaps Couch really is supposed to be pronounced as “cow-ch,” Kearney as “Kerny,” and Yeon as “John.”

    Probably not, but it would make for a amusing practical joke. I have an aunt from Portland who would tell non-Oregonians coming to visit that (depending on how geographically astute they were), Portland was south of the confluence of the Wllow Metty and Column Buyer. If they got lost, all they had to do was ask a local in which direction the rivers were located.

  20. As far as 1-80N or The Banfield being constructed, all I remember is that it was most likely sometime in the mid-fifties. We used to visit relatives up in Eastern Oregon near Pendleton and my very first memories of making that trip were up on the “old highway”, now called The Historic Columbia River Highway. The ever-so-narrow, twisting, single lanes were very treacherous in the winter, especially at night, but during the day, the view was spectacular. Crown Point and The Vista House was a “must stop” along the way…either way! I do remember my dad saying that “someday we’ll be using that road down there” and pointing down towards the Columbia River itself, so I can only assume that they were in the process of constructing the freeway at the time. I looked it up and everything does seem to indicate the mid-50’s, with that area up near The Dalles finally finished in ’63! Boy, I do remember that…it sure seemed to take forever to finish, but I can only figure it probably had something to do with the dam…hey, I was only 13 at the time…what did I care about such things as state budgets, government planning and all that kinda junk!

    I can also remember Celilo Falls, the actual falls themselves, before The Dalles Dam was built. My parents used to point it out and tell me that “This will all be gone once the damn dam is built!” They started building the dam in the early 50’s and it was finished sometime in 1957.

    Party lines! Yeah! And yes, I plead “guilty”…I used to listen in! And how about long extension cords for the only phone in the house? Ours was 25 feet long and my dad paid $3.00 for it…and never let us forget it! Funny thing…I always thought that was kinda funny…you could buy the cord from the telephone company but you couldn’t buy the phone. That was the property of the phone company! And remember, it had to be “wired” in…no little clear plastic clicky thing that snapped into the wall and/or the phone!


  21. Oh, and about all the name pronunciation stuff…I guess was always a little sensitive about that sort of thing. My last name was mispronounced on a regular basis…sometimes as “cone” but usually as “can” for the most part. “It’s Kahn…you know, con…like in ex-con”…my most common comeback as a kid! Whenever I had to tell someone what my name was, their usual response was, “Is that with a ‘C’ or ‘K’?” Yeah, I could understand that one, so I’d simply say “K” and then proceeded to spell it before their pen hit the paper! Later, in the 70’s, when Madeline Kahn hit the scene, it always amused me-they never seemed to mispronounce her last name, so I just began using her as a reference and say, “Kahn, you know, like Madeline!”


  22. It is enjoyable listening to these comments. Although I am transplant, I love road history and Portland’s is the most enjoyable thus far in my years. Are there any photos of the Banfield when it had the I-80N designation?
    (Denver had a similar experience: I-76 was I-80s). Also, not sure if this has been discussed here, but the mile markers “jump” on I-84 near the 205…due to the very thing mentioned above in that the I-80N was supposed to follow the Mt. Hood Freeway.

  23. Jim K,
    Thanks for history and proper pronunciation of Glisan. Even as a 51 year old native Portlander, I’ve always pronounced it as “Gleason”! I guess just out of habit, I’ve never stopped calling I-84 “The Banfield”. By the puzzled looks I often get, it’s easy to determine who has/hasn’t lived here very long. And I can definitely remember people calling the Broadway Bridge to Interstate Bridge section of I-5 the “Minnesota Freeway”. I think I might start referring to it that way again 😉

  24. Cascade Crunch,
    Go into Flickr and type in “Oregon state police 1973” and you will see a photo of the Banfield Freeway (near NE Halsey) as is appeared in 1973. Sorry, the 80N route marker does not show, but somewhere in that photo series (it’s all in the National Archives) a shot taken farther east DOES show an 80N marker. I remember the 80N markers going up on the Banfield about 1960 or so. Before that it was just US30.

  25. Cascade Crunch,
    Here’s an 80N marker. Go into Flickr and type, “Overlooking the Columbia River at Corbett” and you’ll see the marker. Year was 1973. At that point, the Banfield Freeway transitioned into “the Columbia River Highway.”

  26. Hamellr…

    You’re absolutely right…the only thing that really changed is that we used to call it the Sunset Highway and now we call it the Sunset Freeway…but hey, why bother…simply saying “the Sunset” says it all. And I can even remember the joke…first we were High…now we’re Free! Funny, no one ever wanted to use that one in any kind of advertizing slogans…but it’s still a great “inside” joke!


  27. Pingback: Walk on Michigan Ave. – Out & About

  28. My grandmother lived near the corner of Killingsworth and Albina . Her home has since been swallowed by the PCC expansion . It was also two blocks from Peninsula Park where my sisters , cousins and I would play , unattended for hours at a time . Her home was also close to I-5 . My earliest memory of the freeway was walking with Grandma Gladys across an overpass to an Albertson’s grocery on the west side of the freeway , as she loved the fresh baked bread there . This is where the deficits of memory appear for me as i recall being fairly young , perhaps 8 or 10 , yet my family moved to California in 1961 and it appears construction began in 1962 . I was born in 1951 and lived on Johnson Creek on S.E, 174th next to the Portland Gun Club. When we drove into town , my mom would always drive Columbia Boulevard to my grandmothers home .My father was a carpenter , who worked on the Banfield , Baldock , and Columbia River Highway , nearly dying in a crane collapse at a bridge at Eagle Creek . He worked on these freeways throughout the ’50’s for a company called Gibbons and Reed .
    Driving these freeways as an adult has always been a personal remembrance of my father . He returned in the late ’70’s as a project manager for Hughes and Ladd Inc. to construct the section of I-205 from Foster Road to Stark Street . I joined him on this project as a cement finisher . Witnessing how the path of this freeway chewed up and separated the Lents neighborhood created a lot of conflict for me , especially as we once had family living there .It made me reflect on how my great grandmother , grandmother ,aunts , uncles and cousins would have been impacted by placing I-5 through there neighborhood . I am still an advocate for freeways and their expansion in spite of their destructive effects .
    I remember my mom , who grew up in North Portland , would also debate the pronunciation of Glisan Street . She also said the correct way of saying it was “Glissan” with a soft I . Thanks for allowing me to share my story .

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